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Monday, 27 January, 2003, 18:16 GMT
Tube crash sparks war of words
A furious row has erupted between the train drivers' union and management over safety issues relating to Tube trains.
It centres on who is responsible for taking suspected faulty trains out of service, following last Saturday's derailment at Chancery Lane station on the Central line.
In a separate development, London Underground (LU) has been asked to prove that the controversial Public Private Partnership (PPP) was not to blame for the accident, which injured 32 people.
The growing conflict comes as commuters face a second day of disruption to their journeys while investigations continue into the cause of the crash.
The RMT union said the driver of the damaged train had reported a fault about eight stations before Chancery Lane but had been told to continue with the journey.
The train was about to be taken out of service at Holborn, the next station after Chancery Lane.
LU said drivers were responsible for their trains and could refuse to continue a journey if they thought there was a problem.
However, RMT general secretary Bob Crow said this was a "blatant lie" and drivers were bullied if they refused to move trains on safety grounds.
The RMT said one of its members lodged a complaint just a week ago about being threatened with disciplinary action for refusing to move a train after he heard banging noises.
And it had a string of employment tribunal cases involving Tube staff sent home without pay for allegedly refusing to move trains on safety grounds during strikes by firefighters.
"It underlines our fears for the future safety of the network under part-privatisation.
"The process should be stopped now before any more damage is done."
LU reacted by maintaining that drivers' hands were never forced over the issue of safety and just as a captain was responsible for the safety of a ship, safety of a train was down to the driver.
Liberal Democrat London affairs spokesman Tom Brake called on LU and the government to prove the shadow running of PPP on the Central Line had not contributed to the accident.
LU have stressed the section of track on which the accident happened was maintained by a wholly-owned subsidiary, not a private contractor.
Commuters faced long delays and journey diversions on Monday after the whole of the Central and Waterloo and City lines were closed.
The situation is set to continue into Tuesday and neither line may re-open until Friday, LU has warned.
The Central Line is one of the capital's main arteries and the Tube's longest line, with 49 stations - including Bond Street and Oxford Circus.
Between them the two lines carry 600,000 passengers a day.
The derailed train had been examined on Thursday, but the whole fleet is now undergoing further checks.
All 85 trains under scrutiny were built between 1991 and 1994 and entered service on the Waterloo and City Line in 1993 and on the Central Line between 1993 and 1995.
If you have been affected by the Tube line closure, use the postform below to tell us of your journey. If you have a digital picture of the travel chaos, you can send that as an attachment to email@example.com.
Waterloo was extremely crowded at 9.30am (people were being held back on the station concourse and not allowed underground for safety reasons) but everyone seemed to melt away when I headed for Bank - I took the route that LU recommended, via Elephant & Castle and the Northern Line, and it was almost deserted until the last couple of stops.
I travel across town every day, Gants Hill to Lancaster Gate - this morning was truly chaotic. Buses were whizzing by full, overland rail was so overcrowded people were falling ill and Liverpool Street was just impossible. The journey took two and a half hours instead of one hour. Really looking forward to the return journey this evening - God bless London Transport!
Does anyone else have a sense of deja-vu about this? It seems horribly reminiscent of the spate of accidents that occurred on the railways as they were being "rationalised" prior to privatisation.
When will someone make the argument that the Underground is a public good, and therefore should not and cannot pay for itself through ticket sales? It pays for itself by moving five million workers and tourists around London every day, and therefore should be centrally funded to the level it needs to function safely. This PPP is not about bringing private sector efficiencies to a bloated inefficient public sector dinosaur, it's about reducing the state's liabilities and outgoings. Personally I am quite happy to think of a small portion of my taxes being "wasted", if it means that I can travel to my destination safely and punctually. No other city I have lived in has this ludicrous approach to collective goods.
The Tube needs a large investment over a long period of time to modernise and develop its service. By doing this it should help relieve future rush hour congestion. Simple eh! The idea that this can only be done via some bizarre market forces mechanism of the PFI is in my view madness. It will cost more money than if the state funded it directly and honestly. The reason we are not doing this is due to the Treasury and its ideology.
Returning to Epping from a theatre visit, we entered the tube system at Embankment and tried to switch to the Central line at Mile End. There we were told to return to the District line and go to West Ham to catch the Jubilee line to Stratford. At Stratford, we were told to travel via National Rail to Romford where we could catch the #500 bus to Epping. The bus was a half-hour later than scheduled and the entire trip was almost 3 hours rather than the half-hour we had expected. But, at least we weren't stranded, and the tube people were very helpful.
The statement that drivers could refuse to continue a journey if they thought it unsafe absolutely reeks of gutless management. The driver clearly thought there was a problem, that's why he reported it. LU decided they could safely ignore his opinion, and now they don't want to accept responsibility for that judgement. Safety should come first in a hostile environment - underground in a tunnel with lethal voltages inches under the floor of the train. LU should be big enough to own up that they got it wrong in this instance. Their evasion of responsibility doesn't fill me with confidence when I get on a tube.
I noticed there were far more people walking today, as I walk from Waterloo to the city every day in order to avoid the tube!
To avoid further unnecessary congestion at Waterloo( very congested this morning), it would be good if SWT staff could not insist on having six ticket checkers on each gate. When the trains are already late and platforms crowded this just causes more bad feeling and delay.
We are paying for not having a Paris type RER system in London. Most cross town journeys would be greatly shortened and a lot of traffic taken off the tubes if we had the same system as Paris with rapid East-West, South-North lines that call only at key stations. And it would help a lot in incidents like this one on the Central line. We do have the pilot for such a system - Thameslink - but what do our planners do - reduce the service during rush hours!
Does this mean Ken Livingstone will delay the start of congestion charging until this latest blow to London's derisible transport infrastructure is sorted? It is clear that we just do not have the (public) means to safely move people around the capital and Ken is not only kidding himself that buses can make up for the pitiful shortfall but is putting lives at risk daily in pursuing his half-baked policies.
What an outrageous comment made by LU to say "...that drivers were responsible for their trains and could refuse to continue a journey if they thought there was a problem." It's typical of this country and especially of transport to "pass the buck" and blame everybody but themselves. At the end of the day, it is LU's responsibility, not the drivers driving the trains!
All forms of public transport should have remained in the Public Sector. Since conversion to the private sector we have seen the demise of the well established bus building industry and chassis manufacturers in the UK, an increase in fares and no improvements to services but an increase in the use of cars in order to conduct our lives because public transport has failed.
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27 Jan 03 | UK
27 Jan 03 | England
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